Philippines supports unified ASEAN visa
The Philippines lags behind its international neighbors in tourist arrivals and the country's government hopes one measure to help it keep up could be a unified visa with other ASEAN countries

MANILA, Philippines – To entice more tourists to visit the Philippines, the Department of Tourism is supporting the move for a unified visa for foreigners traveling to countries that are part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“The Philippines is one of the countries working hard for a unified ASEAN visa,” Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said at the opening of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart in Manila on September 27.

He said that talks are already underway among member countries on how to implement a unified ASEAN visa similar to Europe’s Schengen visa, which made traveling between the 25 member countries (22 European Union countries and 3 non-EU members) easier and less bureaucratic.

Jimenez said 5 countries are ready to implement the visa, listing: Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. But he said it would take the participation of a majority of the 10 nation group to get the scheme off the ground.

Easier to visit Philippines

Jimenez said the unified visa will make it easier for tourists traveling to the region to stop by the Philippines. 

Jimenez maintains that the country has a smaller international visitor arrival figure relative to other ASEAN countries because the Philippines doesn’t enjoy “a connection of contiguous land mass” that allows foreign visitors to drive across a border and be counted among international arrivals.

He stressed that the Philippines is working hard to bring in more foreign tourists, to streamline travel requirements, and to modernize the visa application processing.

He explained that the country is trying to position itself as a must-experience destination in Asia.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), the country is trying to hit 10 million international visitor arrivals, employ 6.8 million workers in tourism and generate P1.9 trillion in tourism receipts by 2016.

The Philippines lags behind its regional neighbors in tourist arrivals. Data published on June 30 by ASEAN, put visitor arrivals for 2011 at: 

  1. Malaysia 24,714,300
  2. Thailand 19,098,300
  3. Singapore 13,171,300
  4. Indonesia 7,649,700
  5. Vietnam 6,014,000
  6. Philippines 3,917,500
  7. Cambodia 2,881,900
  8. Lao PDR 2,723,600
  9. Myanmar 816,400
  10. Brunei Darussalam 242,100